Driving to distraction

Chris Acosta is a Sacramento utilities worker and freelance writer

A few months ago, there was a major uproar about the possibility of undocumented immigrants being given driver’s licenses, which we citizens couldn’t fathom, because they lacked the training and experience we boasted of earning through that priceless bastion known as “driver’s education.”

Funny, then, that all of what encompasses this state-mandated institution—the written exams and hands-on hours of actual driving time—has done little to convince me that it’s done any damned good.

Much of what I do as an employee of the Sacramento Utilities Water Department takes place in busy intersections and main thoroughfares. Understandably, we do our very best to make the situation as safe as possible by setting up what we call “traffic control” around and along our work areas (like placing those orange cones on the street—yes, that’s what those things are for).

Still, we’re constantly watching our backs for dangers far more probable than your average industrial accident. I’m talking about things like teenagers speeding by with cell phones pressed against their ears who just can’t wait to tell a friend about the cute guy or girl in chemistry class. There’s also the surprisingly large percentage of drivers who just can’t seem to make that distinction between a Stop/Slow hand-held paddle and a checkered flag, or—and we love these folks—those drivers who sincerely believe that we are out to ruin their day and their day only by purposely stalling the commute.

For those who have adopted the latter conclusion, let me offer you a glass of hindsight. Traffic citations are doubled in work zones. You could damage your vehicle. You could actually find yourself asking whether racing home to catch that one episode of Friends you missed while it was in syndication was worth the manslaughter charge.

Like your average rapist or psychopath, there isn’t an accurate profile for identifying a bad driver. On the whole, I’d like to believe that most people actually can drive safely.

The problem seems to be that, in an age of zero patience, we’ve forgotten that in some cases, the absence of this virtue can cost lives.

Sometimes, I think I’d rather take my chances with the immigrants.